Meghan Markle’s father, Thomas Markle, gave his first televised interview today, a month after he made headlines for not being able to attend his daughter’s wedding to Prince Harry. The Duchess’ father is still recovering from the heart operation that prevented him from attending Meghan’s wedding weeks ago, but he said he’s “doing much better” now. Below are the biggest takeaways from his conversation with Good Morning Britain.
He and Meghan used a code name for Prince Harry when they first started dating.
Markle said his daughter first revealed to him that she was dating Harry through a series of phone calls. “The first phone calls were, ‘Daddy, I have a new boyfriend,’ and I said, ‘Well, that’s really nice,'” he recalled. “And the next call was like, ‘He’s British,’ and I said, ‘That’s really nice.’ Eventually the third time around she was like, ‘He’s a prince.’ At that point she said, ‘It’s Harry.’ And I said, ‘Oh! Harry, okay.’ Of course, we’ll have to call him ‘H’ so no one knows that we’re talking about Harry. It’s ‘H’.”
He called Meghan his princess.
“Of course it comes out as a ‘wow,’ but this is my daughter. My daughter is certainly a prize for him as well. Yeah, he’s great, he’s an interesting guy, he’s a prince, but my daughter’s been a princess since the day she was born. I don’t have a problem with that.”
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex would like to thank everyone who took part in the celebrations of their wedding on Saturday. They feel so lucky to have been able to share their day with all those gathered in Windsor and also all those who watched the wedding on television across the UK, Commonwealth, and around the world #RoyalWedding
He and Harry have talked about Donald Trump.
Thomas called his son-in-law a “very nice man, gentleman, and very likable.” However, they still haven’t met face-to-face; they’ve only talked via phone calls. “We’ve had interesting conversations over the phone,” Markle said, citing their discussions on topics like Donald Trump and Brexit.
The first things they said to each other were “Hello Thomas” and “Hi Harry,” but “it became a conversation back and forth mostly about politics,” Markle said. “He was asking me how I was feeling that day, and I was telling him how unhappy I was with the president. That’s how it began.”
But they also discussed Harry’s relationship with Meghan, including how they met. Thomas didn’t give an exact date of the first phone call, but it was “a few months” before the engagement was announced.
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Prince Harry asked him for permission to marry Meghan over the phone.
“Meghan told me first,” Thomas recalled. “But a few times after that, Harry got on the phone with Meghan. They told me together, and Harry asked for her hand over the phone. And I said, ‘You’re a gentleman. Promise me you’ll never raise a hand against my daughter and of course I give you my permission.”
He had no idea how much media attention his family would get.
Markle said that he and Meghan didn’t realize how much of a global superstar she’d become once she joined the royal family. “The royals are very complicated and it’s a whole different lifestyle,” he said. “But I think that she can always rise to that occasion. My daughter is capable of anything and she’ll certainly be a compliment to the royal family.”
Thomas said he had “no idea” about how intense the media attention he and his family would get from Markle’s relationship with Harry. “Having the press at my door and following me at my door, yeah that kind of becomes an invasion a bit,” he said. “Though my other family members are somewhat disturbed, but here again, it’s a compliment. My daughter is now seen all over the world as a Duchess. I’m very proud of her. I’ll adjust to this.”
Meghan wanted him to walk her down the aisle from the beginning.
“Absolutely, that was from the very start,” Markle said. “I absolutely wanted to walk my daughter down the aisle.” Meghan’s father-in-law, Prince Charles, ultimately escorted the bride down the aisle in Thomas’ place.
Two weeks prior to the wedding, he said he was ready to go and set to walk his daughter down the aisle. But he was “honored” that the Prince of Wales stepped in for him.
“I can’t think of a better replacement than someone like Prince Charles. He looked very handsome and my daughter looked beautiful with him. I was jealous, I wish I had been there, I wish it had been me. But thank God he was there,” Markle said. However, he said he’s never spoken to Prince Charles.
He describes the paparazzi following him as “a total invasion.”
“It was a total invasion for quite a while,” Markle said of photographers following him. “Eventually they found where I was at, coming out of a 7/11 and suddenly they were flashing in my face and asking me questions. I jump in my truck and throw up a peace sign—I figured it was better than putting up half a peace sign. It’s been like for about a year now.”
He had top-secret fittings for his wedding day outfit.
“Meghan was putting together fittings for me and make suits for me, shoe sizes, and actually it was all done sort of secret. They arranged for me to show up in Los Angeles and Beverly Hills under different names to get a fitting and things like that.”
When Piers Morgan asked him if the royal cobblers made his shoes, Markle answered, “Yes.”
He apologized for staging paparazzi photos.
In the days leading up to the royal wedding, Thomas Markle made headlines for collaborating with a photographer to take staged photographs of him in pleasant settings, whether it was reading about Meghan and Harry’s relationship or scanning through images of Britain. “This was a presentation for me to change my image because for the past year, photographs of me were always derogatory,” he explained.
“They took all these pictures of me making me look negative, so I thought this would be a nice way of improving my look. Well, obviously that all went to hell,” Markle later added. “I feel bad about it, I apologize for it. There’s not much I can do. That was a mistake.”
He added, “I didn’t do this for money, I did it to change my image.”
Meghan cried when her father said he couldn’t attend the wedding.
Thomas called both Meghan and Harry after the story came out and apologized to them personally, he said. “They were very forgiving. It wasn’t that difficult,” he explained.
The couple was also very willing to have him at their wedding days later. “Meghan said, ‘Everything is ready for you.’ Harry said, ‘I have one of my military friends to take care of you when you’re here.’ It was all set up, it was fine,” Markle said.
“They were both disappointed. Meghan cried, I’m sure—she did cry, and they both said, ‘Take care of yourself, we’re really worried about you.’ They said the important thing was that I get better,” he recalled.
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He watched the wedding at a small bed and breakfast after being released from the hospital.
Markle said a friend was able to take him to a small B&B to hide out and watch the wedding after being released from his surgery.
“She was beautiful,” Markle said of his daughter on her wedding day. “It was incredible watching her. I cried a little bit about it, but she was so beautiful walking down that aisle and so proud and so gorgeous. I was very proud. I couldn’t have seen a better moment in my life.”
He added, “The unfortunate thing for me now is that I’m a footnote in one of the greatest moments in history rather than the dad walking her down the aisle. So that upsets me somewhat.”
This article originally appeared on Harper’s BAZAAR US.